It was a warm spring day when my phone dinged. An email came through, an offer letter. The contents sat mocking me. I couldn’t read them until I was done with the shift during my “stepping stone” to being on the radio. I had a dilemma, do I keep scratching and clawing at my dream? I was finally working on being a board-op. They were giving me a real shot at becoming a producer, and most producers were able to talk on-air, at least the morning shows! I could taste it. I stuffed 200 more Easter eggs, and clocked out once my Programs Director gave the go ahead.
I drove home, I already treat the rode like the go-kart track I learned to drive on, but still got home later than usual. It was like Office Space, every lane change I made to get a step ahead, I got stuffed into being 3 cars back. When I finally got home, I opened to e-mail with my husband. It was EXACTLY what we needed to be able to afford to live in the urban jail cell I never thought I’d agree to live in. It was a $14 raise just to become the office worker I’d had 9 years of experience being. No big thing, right?
In a brand new industry, I caught on fast. Being in radio, a second felt like an hour. I could break things apart into understandable but quick monologues. I could plan to fit 10 advertisers into an 8 minute break at the top or bottom of the hour (aka the start and middle of the hour, fun fact it lines up with the 12 and the 6 on an analog clock). I had to learn that 3 years was a second in the new industry I joined, what an adjustment. Enough backstory though… here’s where it will all start to make sense.
As an administrative assistant in this company, you’re a glorified secretary. Think Mad Men without the sex or on the job drinking/smoking in the offices. It’s still got many “good ole boys club” traits, but it is transforming into a place that women are respected and seen for more than just a pretty face. A large part of my job for about the first 18 months was catering lunches for all of the leadership team. Before we decided to branch out on our caterers, we used the same sandwich and pizza joints. Who would’ve ever guessed that policy would be the catalyst to one of the most upsetting days of this decade.
As COVID-19 began it’s grasp on the world, I was moved buildings. This was more towards February than April however. It was also around the time of my birthday, and when an employee of one of the lunch companies was fired. Who would’ve thought as I moved my desk contents across the street to my new building, a man was getting comfortable hiding in plain distance. Watching. Lurking. Learning.
As I went on about my everyday life, I had what became a false sense of confidence and security. I felt safe, secure, and looked out for as my 2nd anniversary came and went. Still he sat, studying me. Nobody thinking twice about the delivery man pulling in to each parking lot. As mid-March hit, and my maternal role-model became infected with this disgusting disease, I began working from home. You’ve heard about that debacle. I won’t get into the unjust outcomes of that experience. As those months passed, he frantically drove around. What happened to his “sweet girl”, why wasn’t she around?! Did she quit? Was she fired? Does she need a man to fight for her honor?!
He knew my birthday, how I’m not certain. My social media is locked down, I don’t add strangers, I make sure I know who I’m speaking with and that they are who they say they are. I have my head on a swivel, but again, who would’ve thought a delivery driver who had been coming for years would be someone I would have to look at as anything more than someone who regularly was in and out of my job site?
Last week as I was walking in to work from lunch, a car lurches to a stop. It’s him, with gifts. He wanted to “thank me” for being so pleasant to work with while he was at the restaurant. He told me about how he’d lost his job and burned his feet, getting smoldering charcoal briquettes stuck to his feet. I accepted his gift, I thought that would be the end of it. I figured that would end his hysterical and animated need to talk to me. Little did I know, I made the biggest mistake of my life as the thread being pulled disintegrated the metaphorical sweater (or rug, whatever the saying is).
For the next week he continued to blow his prior successful set up. He became overly excited at the off-chance of running into me. He drew a portrait, bought me 36 different kinds of salsa, and somehow remembered from a single mention, that peaches in the Summer were a guilty pleasure of mine. It’s when they’re the most flavorful. He showed up while I was at lunch this time, I’d gone late. I didn’t see his truck pull in, but boy did he drive in like a ram. Security rang, I could hear him in the background, excited and very animated. I sat, waiting in the parking lot, watching the rear-view mirrors. We waited him out, and as I walked back in to work, thinking I’d found a good window, security stopped me and let me know that he’d come back every 5-10 minutes for the last hour. “Why would you talk to someone so unstable? Who is he? Why do you have him in your life?” Gee Mr. Security Guard, did “don’t tell him I’m here” not clue you in to the fact I DIDN’T want him to know when/where/what I do here?
Then the text messages. The incessant messages praising me and telling me how nice it was working together. He’d made tamales weekly since my birthday, he bought all the different types of salsa to insure I had at least 4 of the ones he “knew I liked”, and several more to see if I liked as much as he did. He said, “don’t worry, the carrots and peppers aren’t for you. I know you don’t like them.” HOW?! HOW DOES HE KNOW?! We never discussed Mexican food. We talked Italian food. Where did he learn all of these facts about me? How long have I not noticed him watching me? Where has he followed me? Does he know where I live?
As I process through this, I’m told things like, “why don’t you feel flattered?” Or other end of the spectrum, the metaphorical hold my beer of, “why didn’t you tell me when you ran into him so I could beat his motherfucking face into next week?!” I’m lucky that I do have so many people who care for me, that look at me as though I’m their little sister. A spitfire who can handle her own, but a bit fragile and mixed up from her past life. I hope this guy leaves me alone, and that my rejection of him doesn’t spark any escalated behavior. Until I feel as though that is the case, I’ve told all of my trusted “brothers” and will continue living my life, because while he stole my sense of security, he will NOT steal my life.